Coming into Monday’s final Olympic game of Group B play in the preliminary round, there was a lot of speculation as to how Brazil and Spain would face each other. One wouldn’t want to use the word “tanking” as countries have been penalized in the Olympics so far for doing such a thing. But Brazil and Spain were in a dilemma.
Win and face Argentina, and then powerhouse, the United States in the semifinals. Or lose, and face France and possibly Russia in the semifinals with a better chance to earn a medal.
Brazil and Spain didn’t look like they totally played a tanking type of game as Spain held an 11-point lead over Brazil at one point on Monday, but Leandro Barbosa’s second half explosion led Brazil to an 88-82 victory over Spain.
Both teams starters played, but Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon played no more than 15 minutes each, while Nene didn’t play for Brazil with plantar fascists affecting him.
San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter finished with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block in 30 minutes of play. Here’s the rundown.
First quarter: Brazil (BRA) 17, Spain (ESP) 26
Player of the quarter (BRA): Anderson Varejao, Splitter – As Brazil struggled early, both big men were able to score four points a piece on drives to the basket off pick-and-rolls, and Splitter in particular made a 4-foot jump hook.
Player of the quarter (ESP): Pau Gasol – Pau (25 points) was a monster in the first, not only was he hitting his patented outside 15-17 foot jumpers, he was also scoring with fade-aways and he even made a 3-pointer for 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting. At one point, he had more points than Brazil.
Second quarter: BRA 38, ESP 44
Player of the quarter (BRA): Guilherme Giovanni – With the Spanish holding a five to seven point lead for the majority of the second quarter, Brazil was able to get within four points before heading into halftime down six points. Giovanni poured five points in the quarter.
Player of the quarter (ESP): Spanish NBA Frontcourt – Pau, his brother Marc Gasol (20 points), and Serge Ibaka (14 points) wreaked havoc in the second quarter, as Pau added five more points to his total, and Marc and Ibaka each had eight points a piece by halftime.
Splitter at the half: Splitter added one free throw by getting to the free throw line; he had five points at the half.
Third quarter: BRA 57, ESP 66
Player of the quarter (BRA): Leandro Barbosa, Caio Torres, Marcus Viera – The Brazilian backcourt did what they could to stay with Spain as Barbosa (23 points) had 11 points, Torres had six points, and Viera (13 points) had seven points after three quarters.
Player of the quarter (ESP): Spanish Frontcourt – Ibaka looked like he was playing the Spurs again in the Western Conference Finals as midway through the third quarter, he was shooting 7-of-7 for 14 points. He finally missed a jumper, but if you recall, he made 11 in a row against the Spurs back in April. Pau added another five points in the third, while Marc had accumulated 17 points.
Splitter after three: In the third, Splitter scored just two points and didn’t grab a rebound, but he did go to the bench with three assists after three quarters.
Fourth quarter: BRA 86, ESP 82
Player of the quarter (BRA): Barbosa – With Brazil inching closer to taking the score from Spain in the fourth, Barbosa knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give Brazil a two-point lead. From there, Brazil never surrendered the lead on their way to four-point win. Barbosa scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half.
Player of the quarter (ESP): Gasol brothers – Marc and Pau did what they could to keep Spain in the game, but in the end the Brazilians’ 31-pointer fourth quarter blitz was just too much for the Spanish to overcome.
Splitter’s fourth quarter: Splitter played the last four minutes of the fourth quarter, and scored on a fast break dunk when the game was pretty much decided.
Now Brazil will likely face Argentina in the quarterfinals so long as Argentina doesn’t defeat the United States by 17 points or more. On Wednesday, the epic Splitter versus Manu Ginobili game will most likely be underway in single elimination play. It’s usually a huge rivalry in soccer; it will become one in basketball as well on the Olympic stage.